Looking towards Beinn an Lochain from the south ridge of Ben Donich
Her Maj being back at school and the weather forecast vaguely reasonable for the west coast of Scotland, I headed off to climb Ben Donich today. This Corbett at 847m is a bit of an easy bag, with the car park about 1000′ up the side. Set off in cloudy conditions and made it three-quarters of the way up the north ridge before I had to clamber into the waterproofs and continue without glasses (which were misting and getting obscured by rain). There are some moderately exciting, if very small, scrambles over boulders towards the summit ridge itself. Nearing the top of the north ridge, I came across a large arrow, constructed of stones, and pointing to the left, where the path appeared to continue along a crag. Always one for the wisdom of precedent walkers, I followed the arrow and arrived at the first top well ahead of a couple of other walkers who had set off before me, much to their surprise (and mine). The summit and trig point were a few hundred metres further on and reached in the cloud, although this began to break as coffee and cheese rolls were consumed. The other two, without the aid of maps or compass, intended to find their way down the west ridge and track back to their car using forestry roads, which seemed fairly adventurous to me in the circumstances – it would be all too easy to take a wrong turn, or ridge, and end up miles away from their objective.
I headed back towards the first top and then down the southern ridge towards the bealach from which the climb to The Brack would start. The Brack was a secondary objective for the day, depending on weather and whether (I felt like it). There was no path to follow down this less-popular route and I had to pick my way down steep grassy slopes between crags and mires to find a route. The cloud had lifted by this time so there were spectacular views along the ridge and across Glen Croe to The Cobbler and the other Arrochar Alps. As I got further down this ridge, it became clear that there had been some huge geological tumult at some time in the past: there were enormous fissures between slabs of rock and deep crevices barely hidden by grass and vegetation. This was a wild place to be and would have been silent as well but for the traffic on the A83 across the glen and the sound of a Royal Navy Rescue Sea King tooling around the summits opposite on training exercise.
Getting down towards the bealach between Ben Donich and The Brack it became clear that (a) it was a stiff climb up The Brack, (b) time was getting on a bit and (c) I couldn’t be arsed in any case – I was enjoying the walk and it was pleasant to stay within my energy levels for a change. I found the path running down from the bealach towards the forestry track back up to the car with some ease – there were even a number of new, white-painted posts on the route to guide walkers into the forest. Descending this path I met up with a older chap who had been up The Brack and we accompanied each other back to the cars, swapping stories of service life and Somerset, he having been posted to Taunton at some stage in his career. The Sea King was still meandering around the glen and even came and hovered very close to our track about one hundred metres behind us. These are magnificent aircraft and it is spellbinding to watch the skill of the pilots as they maneouvre in these confined mountains and close to dangerous ground; the helicopter had made two landings close to the summit of Beinn Luibhean whilst we had been watching.
It was a pleasant walk back to the car in good company, and the two other adventurers who had set off without map or compass came back as I was changing my boots.
Stopped off at the Fyne Ales brewery to pick up some beers for Her Maj, who likes such things, and in town for a haircut before starting back at work next week.